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Breaking News: Barnet Council Unlawful use of Agency Workers to break our strike.

10 April 2024.

Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers received an email earlier from the Director of Adult Social Care stating that he had engaged the services of agency workers supplied by Flex 360

No one appears to have advised the Director of Adult Social Care that use of agency workers by an employer during industrial action is unlawful.

Last year UNISON defeated the government in the High Court over strike-breaking legislation that was introduced last summer. The High Court has ruled that the legislation which allows employers to use agency workers to replace those on strike, was unlawful, unfair, and irrational.

Read more here

UNISON has written to Barnet Council Chief Executive asking him to advise the Director of Adult Social Care to withdraw from this ill-advised course of action.

In the meantime, feedback from our members, who make up 95% of the workforce, is that they are furious at this crude attempt to bully and intimidate them only days before they begin nine weeks of strike action over a 13-week period.

Barnet UNISON Mental Health strikers are due to start the next phase of strike action on Monday 15 April. Our strikers have already taken 27 days of strike action and by the end of this next phase they will have taken 72 days of strike which equates to 1,305 lost working days or 13.050 lost contacts with Mental Health service users.

“In 28 years of being a Barnet UNISON rep I have never experienced the amount of anti-union rhetoric coming from senior management. UNISON has reached out several times to offer to resolve the dispute only to be met with machismo style management which has no place in the workplace and especially a workplace which is now a Labour controlled Council.

Our UNISON family of 1.4 million members is right behind our strikers, furthermore news has just come in to say UNISON Industrial Action Committee has increased strike pay to £70 per day.

My message to the Council is stop the bullying and come back with an offer which our members would be prepared to accept.” John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.



Ex Barnet Council Mental Health social worker explains why she had to leave.

For the past two years Barnet UNISON has tried to engage with senior management in Adult Social Care to address the chronic exodus of experienced Mental Health social workers from the frontline Mental Health teams. There has been a catastrophic failure to understand the fundamental risks both for service users and staff because of the ongoing turnover of staff.

Our strikers have already taken 27 days of strike action and by the end of this next phase they will have taken 72 days of strike which equates to 1,305 lost working days or 13.050 lost contacts with Mental Health service users.

Below is a email which was sent by an ex Mental Health social worker. I will repeat what I have repeatedly said to senior management: “Don’t listen to me, listen to someone who actually works in these services, they are the ones who know what is happening and how bad it is.”

After you have read the email below, I hope you can do one of the following:

  1. Visit the picket line outside Colindale on Monday 15 April between 8-10 am
  2. Send a message of support to

Best wishes

John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.

“Dear Executive Director Adult Social Care

I am writing to you as an ex-Barnet mental health social worker in the hope that when you read my experience it will encourage you to meaningfully negotiate with striking social workers.

I left because the conditions that social workers were working in were unsafe for workers and unsafe for service users. I was part of efforts to alter this for 2 years. These efforts started as hopeful conversations with managers in which we expressed our concerns and were promised changes and ended with strike action as the situation worsened and none of the promises made by managers were fulfilled. In my first couple of weeks as a student mental health social worker in LBB I remember the Director of Adult Social Care asking me if I hoped to stay when I qualified. I replied that I couldn’t see a reason to leave as the location was good, the work interesting and the team supportive but after trying my best to stay, I realised that doing so would be to the detriment of my health and wellbeing due to under-resourcing, a reliance on junior staff for exceptionally complex work and huge waiting lists growing ever longer (to name just a few reasons).

The community mental health social work teams work with adults with some of the most complex and enduring mental health needs. They work with adults whose mental health has impacted their ability to complete the activities everyone needs to do in order to survive such as eating, safely using their homes, taking medication and attending essential medical appointments. They also work with adults where there are safeguarding concerns including concerns about self-neglect which is the most common category of abuse found in adult safeguarding reviews. However despite the complexity and risk involved in community work, it is viewed as “non-specialist”.

In my new role as a social worker in an NHS specialist mental health team my salary is 10% higher than it was in a community team while my caseload involves working with fewer adults at risk of serious harm and in which risk is shared among a multi-disciplinary team including psychiatrists, psychologists and community nurses who have decades of mental health experience between them. This experience safeguards the adults we work with and reduces the likelihood of individual practitioners feeling overwhelmed and stressed which is a leading cause of staff burnout in Barnet.

Alongside improved pay, more manageable caseloads, better resources and being able to learn from experienced mental health practitioners I also currently benefit from specialist training, better lone working practices and team administrative support. When I worked for LBB one of the arguments managers gave as to not provide a recruitment and retention payment was that social workers experience the same issues wherever they work and conditions and pay are the same everywhere. This is something said to keep social workers in their place and to stop them asking for improvements. I am proof that it is not true.

In the two months since I left LBB my mental health, physical health and work/life balance has improved. My colleagues who remain do so because they are trying their best to create working conditions that will enable them to stay in their jobs so they can support residents of Barnet but so far management seems to be against its workers and against supporting adults in Barnet who would benefit from the expertise and support of specialist, experienced community mental health social workers.

Please meaningfully negotiate with UNISON before all the mental health social workers leave or become unwell. It is your responsibility to work with social workers towards a solution but at the moment it feels senior management are hiding their heads in the sand which feels insulting to the social workers whose health is being put on the line trying to provide the service that Barnet residents deserve.

Yours sincerely,

Ex Barnet Council Mental Health social worker.”


***Strike preparations commence for 15 April***

8 April 2024.

Dear Supporter

Barnet UNISON Mental Health strikers are due to start the next phase of strike action on Monday 15 April.

Our strikers have already taken 27 days of strike action and by the end of this next phase they will have taken 72 days of strike which equates to 1,305 lost working days or 13.050 lost contacts with Mental Health service users.

We have had two meetings with Acas where we have established that Barnet Council have confirmed that they do have twice the funding they would need to settle this dispute. It is now clear that thus dispute is not about the money and as each day that goes by it feels like this is an attempt by senior officers to break UNISON.

On behalf of our members, I am requesting all our supporters to join us on our picket line this Monday 15 April between 8-10 am.

The following speakers are currently:

  1. Libby Nolan UNISON President.
  2. Jo Galloway Regional Secretary, UNISON London Region.
  3. John McDonnell MP
  4. Lord John Hendy KC
  5. Shelly Asquith Health & Safety TUC
  6. Sam Gurney Regional Secretary London, East and South East TUC
  7. Kerie Anne Branch Secretary Tower Hamlets UNISON
  8. Liz Wheatley UNISON NEC rep and Branch Secretary, Camden UNISON.

More speakers to be announced later.

The Location of our picket line is 2 Bristol Avenue, Colindale, London NW9 4EW. Colindale station on the Northern line is the nearest station to our picket line. It is a 5-minute walk, turn first left out of the station.


John Burgess, Branch Secretary, Barnet UNISON.


BREAKING NEWS: Two more experienced Mental Health social workers due to leave this month.

Two more experienced Mental health social workers are about to start work in the NHS this month which is devastating news for the service and the morale of the workforce. Barnet Council have failed to acknowledge that they have a problem reciting social workers with Mental health experience to the team which has meant the exodus of experienced mental health social workers is having a critical impact on the remaining workforce.

The chronic turnover of staff across our acute Mental Health teams is plunging the service into a deeper crisis as Barnet Council refuses to submit a reasonable proposal to resolve this long-standing dispute.

UNISON has repeatedly urged the Council over the last nine months to take this matter seriously by doing the right thing and working with UNISON to stop the mass exodus of social workers from these acute Mental Health social work teams.

UNISON has warned the Council that if senior officers continue to take an adversarial approach to negotiations, then a nine weeks strike action over a 13 week period will begin on Monday 15 April.

If our members do take part in the next phase of strike action, it will mean that Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers will have taken 72 strike days which equates to 1,305 lost working days or 13,050 lost contacts with Mental Health service users.

The power to end this dispute is in the hands of Barnet Council.


Countdown begins just 10 Days before 9 weeks of strike action……

01Days 10Hours 25Minutes 06Seconds

Date 3 April 2024.

The start date of unprecedented strike action is only 11 days away.

To date Barnet UNISON Mental Health social workers have already taken 27 days of strike action which equates to 405 lost working days across the Mental Health service, or 4,050 service user contacts lost.

Incredibly despite two meetings with Acas, Barnet Council has yet to make a reasonable offer to try and resolve this dispute.

Last week to try and avert the escalation of the dispute Barnet UNISON submitted more information to Barnet Council including the news that two more experienced Mental Health social workers are due to leave the teams in April thus escalating the crisis within the frontline Mental Health teams.

We are waiting for a response.

In the absence of a meaningful offer which UNISON could recommend to their members the escalation of the strike takes place over three time periods.

The first period is a two-week strike from 15 April to 26 April 2024.

The second period is a three-week strike from 13 May to 1 June 2024

The third period is a four-week strike from 17 June to 12 July 2024. (four weeks).


Barnet UNISON National Pay Meeting : Wednesday 24 April 6.30- 7.30

Wednesday 24 April 6.30- 7.30

Join Barnet UNISON  Zoom Meeting using the link below.

Meeting ID: 890 7420 6415

Passcode: 779562

Barnet UNISON is organising a series of Pay meetings over the next three months to update members on the National Pay Negotiations.

UNISON proposal is as follows:

  • £3,000 or 10%.
  • Two-hour reduction of the working week without financial loss.
  • One additional annual leave.

UNISON, Unite and GMB are in negotiations and will report back once they have had a formal response from the National Employers.

It is likely that UNISON will conduct a strike ballot of their members. It is important that all Barnet UNISON members are ready to VOTE. Last year Barnet UNISON was 6 votes short of a successful strike ballot.

This time we intend on delivering a massive VOTE on National Pay.



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